How to Keep Calm During an Argument - Joe Rogan's Techniques
Joe Rogan is one of the most successful podcasters of all time; his 2000+ episodes have amassed a cult-like following, consistently ranking his podcast in the top 3 on iTunes. After interviewing over 2000 guests, Joe has developed an uncanny ability of maintaining his cool especially during heated arguments. In this article we will talk about 5 things you can do to keep your cool during an argument.
Don’t Raise Your Voice During Arguments
Joe Rogan is human. He does get frustrated, especially when dealing with rude people, however he deals with this very differently to most people. Just look at this clip from an interview with astrophysicist Neil Degrassi Tyson where he constantly gets cut off (0:46 to 1:10 in the video above) .
Notice the difference in vocal projection between Joe and Neil. Neil frequently cuts Joe off whilst raising his voice to command the situation. You can tell from Joe’s micro-expressions that the situation is frustrating, however he keeps his voice at the same level. He does not try to match Neil’s range nor get into a loud argument. You should do the same during a debate or argument in order to maintain control of the situation.
Avoid the amygdala hijack
Joe keeps his voice low to avoid what’s called an ‘amygdala hijack’. The amygdala is one of the oldest parts of our brains and regarded as the emotional center. Our neocortex is a newer region, responsible for our more conscious and deliberate thought. During stressful situations, for example being confronted by a mugger, our brain cuts out the conscious and slow-thinking processes of the neocortex. Instead it goes into a fight-or-flight response driven by the amygdala. This amygdala hijack is good from an evolutionary standpoint, however, can be detrimental when triggered at the wrong time during social interactions. Joe keeps his voice down to avoid escalating the situation in his head.
Raising your voice during an argument reinforces the amygdala’s false interpretation of the situation, leading you down a path that can’t be recovered. So, it’s important to pay attention to your vocal projection.
Pay Attention to Your Body Posture
During heated debates, Joe doesn’t move much. He maintains his posture and does not take up too much space. When people take up a lot of space it can look confrontational. Many animals take up space to show their size before fighting to scare off competitors. Humans do the same unconsciously; think of every schoolyard- or bar-fight you have seen. People often flare their arms out and raise their chests like in a krump battle.
If you want to keep your cool during an argument try to be still. This also helps to avoid the amygdala hijack.
Amy Cuddy’s research, the subject of criticism over the years, has now been validated with her latest paper supporting this idea. From Cuddy’s research it was found your body’s posture affects you on a hormonal level. Taking up more space in power poses often boosts testosterone levels. Joe is doing the opposite as elevating your testosterone is far from ideal during heated debates. There is a time and place to assert dominance and be alpha. An argument is not the right time as that state of mind can often lead from conversation to chaos.
Control Your Breathing to Stop Stress
Your breath is a special thing. It allows you to provide oxygen to the brain which helps you think more clearly. It too negates the amygdala hijacking phenomenon we talked about.
Esther Sternberg, a physician and researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, stated in an NRP.com article that slow, deep breathing negates the fight-or-flight reaction by “stimulating the opposing parasympathetic reaction”.
Put simply, breathing calms you down.
Joe Rogan understands this and consciously controls his breath. When talking he looks like a monk: calculated and taking breaths rhythmically. He is not short of breath nor breathing too quickly. Pay attention to his mouth during his podcasts and you will notice he keeps it slightly open most of the time. I suspect this is to help him breathe. Naturally, you can take in more oxygen from your mouth than your nose. This is why you breathe through your mouth when you are exhausted.
If you find yourself in an argument try and control your breathing. A secondary benefit is that it brings you into the present moment. This allows you to be more mindful and conscious of the situation. You avoid feeling lost in your mind, which often exaggerates things and makes them bigger than they are.
Avoid Ad Hominem Attacks
An ad hominem attack is when you attack a person’s character or motive instead of the argument at hand. Joe Rogan does a good job of avoiding this by trying to dissect the person’s argument. He tries to understand their point of view clearly, breaking down the argument instead of attacking the person.
When we get heated it’s easy to attack the person on their stupidity, history, or some character flaw. We must avoid this because it leads them down the same rabbit hole that we are trying so hard to avoid: the amygdala hijack. Be like Joe and try to understand their point of view. As humans we are often blinded by our own biases. Try to remove these to better understand what the other person is saying. Picture yourself as a by-stander watching the conversation.
There is a quote from The Kybalion stating that “all truths are but half-truths”. Remember that your world view is not always correct. Approach discussions like a scientist whose only objective is to discover the truth.
Understand Your Ego
Perhaps the biggest reason Joe can avoid serious confrontation is because he understands his ego.
The Ego is the mind’s created version of itself. It’s an identity that has been created through our upbringing, friends, and beliefs, together with our society. Just as our minds create thoughts which are not representative of the real world, our egos are not real. Yet most of us cling to them as if they were. People create ego identifications such as “I am a dentist” or “I am an Instagram influencer” and behave in a manner that matches these labels. The ego and its belief structures are a trap in arguments as stop you from entertaining certain ideas without creating vehement defenses against your truth.
Joe Rogan often talks about meditation and experimenting with psychedelics such as DMT. These are methods allowing people to experience a degree of ego-death via altered states of consciousness given the ego is just an illusion. Even being humbled through martial arts such as Jiu-Jitsu allows one to understand their ego and deal with it in a healthy manner.
If we want to keep our cool, we must become masters of our egos. I suggest Vipassana mindfulness meditation as the path, however, it is up to you to choose the vehicle.
Joe Rogan is not perfect, but he does have a high level of self-awareness. We can learn a lot from him. Remember not to raise your voice. Instead, control your posture, pay attention to your breathing, avoid ad hominem attacks, and learn about your ego.
Do this and you will be one step closer to living and dying well.